Richardson man's lawyer says ‘unpopular words' weren't terror threats

The FBI says a Richardson man used social media to show support for ISIS and praise violent terrorist acts and even encouraged lone wolf attacks. But the man’s attorney says don't rush to judgment.

In his only interview since his client, Azzam Mohamad Rahim, was taken into federal custody, attorney James Whalen says the American-born’s words may be unpopular, but that doesn’t mean he is connected to terrorist

FBI agents stopped and interviewed Rahim at DFW Airport as he headed to Jordan last week.

“He was planning to go to Jordan to see his daughter,” his attorney explained. “He was going there for legitimate reasons. There’s no evidence to suggest he was going there for any nefarious reason whatsoever, and he did have a return trip ticket.”

The government says Rahim knowingly and willingly made a false statement about an offense involving international or domestic terrorism.

“Whether or not he lied about it or admitted it, how does that make a crime?” Whalen said. “And I think that’s gonna be an important question.”

The government says Rahim used an app called Zello over the past year to communicate with others in chat rooms, talking and texting support for ISIS and praising the Bastille Day terror attack in 2016. Two weeks before a nightclub shooting in Istanbul on New Year's Eve, chatter on the app called for brothers in Turkey to carry out lone wolf attacks.

“I have yet to see the evidence and everything that supports that. But that’s what they claim that it is his writings or his words that he used on that chat room,” Whalen said. “If he's the one who did say these things, whether they may be distasteful things that we don’t like to hear, other people say it could be protected political free speech. And the question is has the FBI, has the government made and effort to criminalize that speech?”

Rahim is held in federal custody. The judge presiding over his case feels he is a flight risk and a potential danger to the community based on what the government says were his messages written and his words on social media.